Bo McCarver’s weekly news compilation, 11-30-2010 & 12-07-2010

Tuesday Report, November 30, 2010

Special to the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service

Dallas is the latest Texas city to discover a major problem in implementing ambitious plans to house the homeless: where to place them? Finding locations near public transit and jobs – and near neighborhoods willing to accommodate the poor, has also stumped Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio.

Meanwhile, El Paso’s emergency shelters are full to capacity as the homeless population surges.

For a pdf version of the full stories, plus contextual articles in social, environmental and legal areas, contact Bo McCarver at bmccarver@austin.rr.com

Farmers Insurance files for Texas rate hike

Associated Press November 24, 2010

AUSTIN, TEXAS — Farmers Insurance has filed for a 3.9 percent rate increase in Texas.

The Dallas Morning News reports that Farmers’ filing on Tuesday with the Texas Department of Insurance will affect about half the company’s customers in Texas.

Farmers’ spokesman Luis Sahagun says the rate hike is needed to handle the increasing cost of claims in Texas.

The new rates will go into effect in March. It will affect customers who have either the Texas Family Home Policy or the Farmers Next Generation Homeowners Policy. About 324,000 customers have those policies.

A state insurance department spokesman says actuaries will review the company’s filing to make sure the rate hike is justified.

An insurer can increase premiums once it notifies the agency.

[End of story: http://www.statesman.com/news/texas/farmers-insurance-files-for-texas-rate-hike-1071551.html]

Not So Hot TODs

Sputtering rail, sputtering economy – the uncertain fate of Red Line development

By Lee Nichols Austin Chronicle November 26, 2010

Well, we finally got the transit – more or less – so where’s the development?

Longtime followers of the MetroRail Red Line saga may remember that the Capital Metro train was supposed to deliver more than passengers. Local planners – both within City Hall and the transit agency – hoped it would also attract a dense mix of retail, offices, and residents, which in turn would create even more passengers.

To support this goal, in 2005 the city created special development zones around most of the Red Line stations (as well as one bus transit center) that not only encouraged such uses but in some cases mandated them, while prohibiting other uses not seen as transit-friendly – a concept called “transit-oriented development.” The city of Leander created a TOD as well. (For the full background, see “Here Comes the Train,” Jan. 28, 2005; for the broad list of potential TODs, see “TODs and Their Zones.”)

Five years later, Austinites can survey the land surrounding the rail stations they paid for and proudly point to … a whole lot of nothing.

Full story at: http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=oid%3A1117772

FEMA to give up mobile homes

By T.J. Aulds         Galveston County Daily News November 29, 2010

Twenty-one of the county’s estimated 56 residents who still are living in a Federal Emergency Management Agency-provided mobile home are about to get a new landlord.

County commissioners last week approved a plan in which the federal government will turn over the mobile homes to various nonprofit organizations.

More than two years since Hurricane Ike struck, more than 50 families call the temporary housing units home.

At one time, there were more than 600 in the county, officials said. Of those remaining, 21 are participating in the county’s disaster housing program that is supposed to build the residents new houses to replace their old ones destroyed by the hurricane.

FEMA officials want to turn the mobile homes over to the nonprofit agencies that, for 12 months, lease the unit to the Ike victims.

When those residents find permanent housing, the nonprofit moves the unit and gets to keep the mobile home for its own purposes.

Full story at: http://galvestondailynews.com/story/194498

Dallas Housing Authority rejects apartment proposals for homeless

By Kim Horner          Dallas Morning News November 29, 2010

A plan to move 350 homeless people from a packed Dallas shelter to their own apartments has hit a snag.

The Dallas Housing Authority solicited proposals from apartment landlords last month to provide the homes – which include services such as counseling – at existing private apartment complexes.

But the agency, which would pay rent subsidies to landlords, rejected each of the eight responses because they were “weak,” MaryAnn Russ, the housing agency’s president and chief executive, said at a meeting Monday of the agency’s Board of Commissioners.

“We want to award the units, but we want to do it right,” Russ said.

Full story at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/113010dnmetdha.3e328cc.html

Amarillo transition facility ready to open its doors

Site designed to provide support for parolees

By Brenda Bernet        Amarillo Globe-News November 26, 2010

Seeing lives change will make all the hardship and struggle worth it, the head of a new Amarillo halfway house said.

The Amarillo Transitional Treatment Center has a home at 9300 S.E. Third Ave. A renovation has given new life to four buildings on the property. All that remains is a state license to operate, and officials had to clear a few more hurdles at the last minute.

http://galvestondailynews.com/story/194498

Paul Walker, the executive director of a nonprofit organization overseeing the center, anticipates receiving state approval for the residential program any day.

Full story at: http://amarillo.com/news/local-news/2010-11-26/facility-ready-open

Shelter shortage: As El Paso reaches 1,400 homeless, beds become scarce

By Alex Hinojosa         El Paso Times November 29, 2010

For the first time in years, those seeking refuge from the cold or from abuse may receive a regrettable answer from area shelters: Sorry, we have no room.

John Martin, director of the area’s Salvation Army, said shelters and transitional living centers throughout the city are in crisis mode. As the number of homeless people in the El Paso area has reached 1,400, shelters are struggling to provide a bed for everyone. At the Salvation Army’s shelter, 95 beds are available, but just last month cots were pulled out to accommodate 132 people.

Usually Martin said shelters see a surge in the number of homeless at the end of the year. But the surge started early this year in September.

Full story at: http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_16730749


 

Tuesday Report, December 7, 2010

Special to the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service

 

All eyes are on the Fed this week as economists predict another recession. That specter does not seem to concern policy makers at the Fed who propose to amend the Truth in Lending Act and make matters worse for homeowners undergoing foreclosure. Housing advocates are calling for the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to handle lending policies.

 

In Chicago, Cabrini Green, the icon of misguided social policy in housing, is finally vacant and ready for demolition.

 

For a pdf version of the full stories, plus contextual articles in social, environmental and legal areas, contact Bo McCarver at bmccarver@austin.rr.com

 

 

Fed wants to strip a key protection for homeowners

By Tony Pugh           McClatchy Newspapers December 1, 2010

WASHINGTON — As Americans continue to lose their homes in record numbers, the Federal Reserve is considering making it much harder for homeowners to stop foreclosures and escape predatory home loans with onerous terms.

The Fed’s proposal to amend a 42-year-old provision of the federal Truth in Lending Act has angered labor, civil rights and consumer advocacy groups along with a slew of foreclosure defense attorneys.

They’re not only asking the Fed to withdraw the proposal, they also want any future changes to the law to be handled by the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which begins its work next year.

In a letter to the Fed’s Board of Governors, dozens of groups that oppose the measure, including the National Consumer Law Center, the NAACP and the Service Employees International Union, say the proposal is bad medicine at the wrong time.

“At the depths of the worst foreclosure crisis since the Great Depression, we are surprised that the Fed has proposed rules that would eviscerate the primary protection homeowners currently have to escape abusive loans and avoid foreclosure: the extended right of rescission.”

Full story at: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/12/01/104568/fed-wants-to-strip-a-key-protection.html

 

5 going to prison over Houston mortgage fraud scam

Houston Chronicle December 2, 2010

Four members of a Houston mortgage brokerage as well as a Houston businessman were sentenced this week to prison for running a fraud scheme, federal officials said.

Anthony Wayne Hawkins, 50, of Houston, was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Prosecutors said he helped organize the scheme from offices at Central Capital Financial Group in Houston.

United States District Judge Nancy F. Atlas also sentenced loan officers Brandon Crenshaw, 30, of Houston, and Nehemiah Douglas, 30, of Spring; loan processor Shirley Adger, 51, of Dallas, and business owner David Vasser, 61, of Houston.

Crenshaw and Douglas were convicted of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. They were sentenced to three and two years, respectively.

Full story at: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7321503.html

 

SAHA supervisor gets probation for bribery

By Guillermo Contreras          San Antonio Express-News December 2, 2010

The last person to plead guilty in a recent corruption probe at the San Antonio Housing Authority was sentenced Wednesday to four years of probation.

Gabriel Roman Reyes, who was a maintenance supervisor for SAHA, pleaded guilty on a felony charge of accepting $400 from a contractor just before his August trial was to begin. He initially was indicted on 23 counts of taking bribes totaling $5,860, but the government agreed to dismiss the remaining charges.

He faced 18 to 24 months in prison, but prosecutors filed a motion seeking leniency.

Full story at: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/SAHA-supervisor-gets-probation-for-bribery-851966.php

 

Long Goodbye For Infamous Public Housing Complex

By David Schaper        NPR December 7, 2010

Only two families remain in the last standing high rise in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green public housing complex and they could move out as soon as Tuesday.

The move marks the end of an era in Chicago’s troubled public housing history, as the Chicago Housing Authority has been gradually moving residents out and tearing down the high rises at Cabrini and other public housing developments in the city.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley praised the end of what he called a troubled era of public housing policy that warehoused large concentrations of poor people.

“It destroyed families,” he said. “It moved people from rural communities into high rises. They had no supportive services and it completely failed.”

Full story at: http://www.npr.org/2010/12/07/131858205/long-goodbye-for-infamous-public-housing-complex

 

In-Comprehensible? ANC Balks at Comp Plan.

By Nora Ankrum        Austin Chronicle December 2, 2010

The Austin Comprehensive Plan is well into its third phase of public input, a process that began in late September with a series of public forums and continued through the fall as people responded to the Imagine Austin online survey. According to the city, this phase – in which participants examine five different “scenarios” envisioning Austin’s future – has attracted some 2,000 respondents, among whom Scenario D has emerged as a clear favorite. As the most compact option, Scenario D would limit development over the next three decades to a central, 88-square-mile portion of Austin’s planning area (which extends throughout the extraterritorial jurisdiction), emphasizing mixed-use centers and focusing redevelopment/infill between MoPac and SH 130.

Despite its overall popularity, however, Scenario D has proven divisive with neighborhood associations concerned that after years of working with the city to guide growth through neighborhood plans – in theory created in much the same spirit as the comp plan, though on a smaller scale – all that detail work might be swept away by the broad strokes of the comp plan and neighborhoods might be forced to accommodate additional development on top of what they’ve bargained for.

Full story at; http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=oid%3A1121857

 

New Orleans makeover: economic boost or loss of a historical legacy?

Post-Katrina, New Orleans looks to diversify its economy beyond tourism. But plans for a mammoth biomedical facility mean historic homes will be relocated, or razed.

By Mark Guarino Christian Science Monitor December 6, 2010

New Orleans — The parade crawling up Tulane Avenue in this city is unusually quiet. No one is dancing to marching bands. No one is cheering for beads to be thrown from atop a float.

That’s because there are no floats. This parade features only modest, one-story homes more than 100 years old, jacked up on steel beams and dragged slowly by pickup trucks to their new location a few miles away. The procession is the result of one of the most controversial urban-planning projects in New Orleans since hurricane Katrina. On one side are those who fear that the city’s historic character is being steamrolled by state and federal lawmakers. On the other side are those who say sacrifices are in order if the city wants to advance an economic comeback.

The controversy involves nearly 265 homes in the Lower Mid-City neighborhood, a 30-acre area recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. It borders downtown and is across from the city’s medical district, decimated by Katrina.

Full story at: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2010/1206/New-Orleans-makeover-economic-boost-or-loss-of-a-historical-legacy/(page)/2